No Bull! Motorcycles Caught Up in Beef Trade Dispute

What do motorcycles and a piece of steak have in common? If you’re a government official in the middle of a trade dispute, quite a bit it seems.

Motorcycles ride into the ‘Bizarro’ world of trade disagreements as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative threatens tariffs, a type of tax, on motorcycles imported from the European Union (EU). It comes as part of a trade battle over hormones in U.S. beef.

In 1981 the EU adopted restrictions on livestock production limiting the use of natural hormones to therapeutic purposes, banning the use of synthetic hormones, and prohibiting imports of animals and meat from animals that have been administered the hormones. The effects were first felt by American beef exporters in 1989 when the EU banned meat produced with growth-inducing hormones. U.S. officials have long maintained there is no scientific basis for banning hormone-treated beef, noting many other countries use hormones to stimulate growth in beef cattle. The United States took the EU to international courts and placed retaliatory tariffs on Italian mineral water, Roquefort cheese and truffles.

There is a move to add motorcycles engine sizes between 51cc and 500cc cruising in from the European Union to the list of items charged tariffs. This comes from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, who is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity and direct investment policy and overseeing negotiations with other countries.

The American Motorcyclist Association has spoken out about the proposed tariff, noting, ‘trade disputes residing within the boundaries of the agricultural industry should not be solved with trade sanctions levied against non-agricultural products’.

“There is no logical link between motorcycles and beef,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president of government relations. “It is absurd to even consider such a move."

The AMA explains, if the agency enacts this motorcycle tariff, serious and potentially irreversible harm will be done to American small- and medium-sized business owners selling the vehicles and to American families who buy these motorcycles for commuting and outdoor recreation.

Affected manufacturers include Aprilla, Beta. BMW, Ducati, Fantic, Gas Gas, Husqvarna, KTM, Montesa, Piaggio, Scorpa, Sherco, TM and Vespa.

While the thought of using motorcycle to help beef exports may seem like a strange connection, this isn’t the first time it’s been made. The same agency tried the same tactic in 2008, but the effort was thwarted when the AMA, the Motorcycle Industry Council and bike manufacturers and retailers rallied motorcyclists against the plan. At that time, the U.S. Trade Representative instead raised the tariff on a variety of European food products.

The AMA is ready for round two of the trade fight.

“Should the availability of motorcycles be hindered by these unjustified trade sanctions, dealerships may close, leaving countless Americans without jobs,” Allard said. “The negative effects of the proposed sanctions will not only harm the motorcycle sales industry, but will spread through the aftermarket equipment sector, recreation equipment sales, the sports entertainment industry and further down the line.”

Riders, as well as the general public, can make their opinions known by heading over to a page on the AMA website.

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